[WATCH] Disastrous Amazon rainforest fire can be seen from space

The National Institute for Space Research said that its satellite data showed a record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest in 2019, an 84% increase on the same period in 2018

A wave of forest fires in Brazil's dry season was captured by NASA's satellite imagery
A wave of forest fires in Brazil's dry season was captured by NASA's satellite imagery

A vast forest fire in the Amazon rainforest has been detected by NASA's satellite imagery. 

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on NASA's Aqua satellite captured several still images of multiple fires burning in the states of Rondônia, Amazonas, Pará, and Mato Grosso on August 11 and August 13, 2019.

The smoke could be detected by NASA's satellite as Sao Paolo's sky darkened by a massive billow of smoke
The smoke could be detected by NASA's satellite as Sao Paolo's sky darkened by a massive billow of smoke

Video footage of the fire shows that Sao Paolo in Brazil, though 2,400 kilometres away from the fire, has been shadowed by dark billows of smoke and day has turned to night.

The video shows harrowing, apocalyptic footage of the burning rainforest, a rainforest that is responsible for 20% of the Earth's oxygen, ostensibly slowing down the pace of global warming.

It is also home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.

The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) said that its satellite data showed a record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest in 2019, an 84% increase on the same period in 2018.

Source: National Institute for Space Research
Source: National Institute for Space Research

Though wildfires are quite common during Brazil's dry season, they are also deliberately initiated to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching. The Inpe said that it has detected more than 74,000 fires between January and August of this year, illegal or otherwise, the highest number since records began in 2013.

Since Thursday of last week, it observed more than 9,500 forest fires.

A heat map by InfoAmazonia reveals the extent of the forest fire
A heat map by InfoAmazonia reveals the extent of the forest fire

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed this latest data, arguing that it was the "season of the queimada", when farmers use fire to clear land. "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Bolsonaro has been repeatedly criticised for his apparent lack of environmental concern and the lax enforcement to fight environmental crimes—deforestation in the Amazon soared under his far-right reign.

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro
Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro

Inpe researcher Alberto Setzer told Reuters that while rainfall was slightly below average in 2019, there was nothing too abnormal with the climate as to cause such an unprecedented wave of forest fires.

"The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident," he said.

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